Friday, December 1, 2017

Some truth, as I see it (on religion)

Some people need religion in order to see and understand the inherent goodness of the universe, find purpose in their existence, and I'm okay with that.

I know that everything is connected and that there is a pattern by which all things flow.  In some respects I think that every major religion is fundamentally right at least a little.  It might be in large part a combination of different religions that is closer to the truth of it all.  Each viewing the universe from a slightly different perspective and portion of the answer, yet still grasping the overall message.

We all have pulled at the fabric of what it is that this is, and come back with some kind of conclusion. We can only interpret this feeling, thought, or knowledge through our own five senses and from the words of others.

Faith can be had by someone who isn't religious, in the knowledge that faith is nothing more than a knowledge that forevermore, whatever we do, everything will be fine as long as we are harmonious.  By harmonious I mean to say with one another and our environment.

Beware the man(or woman) who orders you to kill or harm another.  Beware the impulsive feeling to give into that thing that burns below or just behind your psyche.  For the ultimate power of, if you can call it evil, is moving towards non-existence.  The serpent eating its tail.  Anything that destabilizes the community at a fundamental level(killing, stealing, etc) is simply a path to destruction and non-existence.

Agnostics have it only partially right, I think.  They profess to say that due to it's empirical untestibility, we could never know for certain one way or the other the true origins of the universe and if it was the result of some greater power or not.  Though I agree when they say, the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence(in contrary to the Atheist).  Where I differ is that, some day, I believe we will reach a point(if we don't destroy ourselves first) where we gain enough clarity to see the intrinsic interconnectedness between all things.  Our minds, still in its fairly primitive state, from what I suppose, is really what is holding us back from understanding the true nature of everything.

So, I guess I have faith that one day, through the scientific method, we will be able to see the answers.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Sensible Gun Control

Seems like this is a hot topic lately, with the surge of gun violence in the US over the past ten years.  One of my Twitter colleagues asked me for my opinion on sensible gun control, and if there actually was such a thing.  This being a topic I feel a bit about, answering in the required 140 characters definitely wouldn't suffice for an accurate answer.  So here we go.

Now, let me preface anything I say here with the fact that I am a Canadian, with a distinct and probably different view on it than a lot of folks south of the Peace Arch crossing.

I've been around firearms most of my life.  Growing up in rural northern Canada, owning a rifle is sort of part of the standard way of things.  Most adults own at least one, and store it safely(for the most part).

I'm a hunter(for food only, not trophy's), and in my younger days I competed nationally in Biathlon.  I'm not anti-firearm by any stretch of the imagination.  To me they are just another tool humans use, though dangerous, a tool none the less.

A resurgence in calls for "gun control" usually come up as a knee-jerk reaction to isolated situations of violence.  Usually these calls are answered by an equal and opposite reaction by the pro gun advocates calling for an increase to the proliferation of arms, all in the name of "protection."

"Nobody needs guns, my baby was shot by that wacko, so take 'em all off the street!"  Says the pro gun-control picketer.

"Everybody needs guns, cause then we'd all be safe from that wacko. I need to protect my family!" Says the pro gun NRA supporter.

The problems with gun violence, my point of view, stem from a combination of issues.  Like any major issue, they are complicated and multi layered.

The first trouble starts with people not respecting the firearm with the same reverence as they did with the sword in days long past.  Firearms that are treated with a cavalier attitude can only be mishandled.  So properly mandated education for all citizens on firearm safety and respect should be where it begins.  If you're going to have something built right onto your constitution, why wouldn't you mandate education on its proper use?

Another trouble is prohibition doesn't work.  If people want something bad enough, they will always get it. From guns to drugs.  Simply making something illegal doesn't remove the problem.  So restricting the sale of certain guns isn't the correct path to take.

If you are in your home, you should be able to own any firearm you like, provided it is stored correctly.  That answers the second amendment issue.  Should you need to challenge the government with an organized armed uprising, there it is.

Also, all those people carrying guns on their person like it's the wild west, ready to shoot the next guy who tries to rob them...  ...this is 2015 people.

I don't care if you "refuse to be a victim,"  if you're going to carry around a firearm, and your job doesn't require it, and you aren't traveling to or from a target range/hunting grounds... really just appears like you're looking for an excuse to use it, or are a criminal looking to commit crime.

So back to my original question, can there be such thing as sensible gun laws?

Sure,  here's some rules I'd apply:
  • You shouldn't be allowed to purchase firearms without basic standardized training on their use.
  • Without a doctors note, you should be restricted from purchasing firearms if you have a history of mental illness.
  • Restricting the sale of fully automatic assault rifles or military grade equipment to those who have taken one or more levels of additional standardized training.
  • Carrying(as in keeping a sidearm) permits should only be issued to people who require firearms for their profession. 
  • Transportation of firearms to and from gun ranges or hunting grounds should not require a license or permit.
Of course, this doesn't address the root causes to extreme gun violence.  There are some fairly major socioeconomic factors that play into those kinds of incidents, that I have neither the expertise to hope to verbalize nor the moral ground to criticize.  I do know that desperate times breed desperate people, and that we should be looking to and calling on our so-called leaders to address the disease rather than the symptoms of it.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Abyss

So last night I had my very first experience floating in a sensory deprivation tank.  Let me recount the experience for you...

I got to the place, it didn't seem like anything special, looked like more of a spa with a very chillaxed attendant manning the front counter.  The guy reminded me of a cheery cross between Doug Benson and Tommy Chung, with a slow smile and zen-like demeanor. He offered me some tea or water and had me sign a waiver which stated that if I regressed into a primordial state like something out of the movie 'Altered States,' that I wouldn't sue them for it.

After a brief discussion on how excited he was that this was my first "float" as he called it, he led me down a hallway and into my designated twelve by six feet floatation chamber.

In the room was a shower, some towels, a hanger with a bathrobe, a bench and a large long white hexagonal tank.  The attendant explained that you have to shower and use this special pre-float soap to ensure any perfumes or sweat or any other nastiness is completely off of you before entering the tank.  I was given some earplugs and told that soft music will start to play when my time in the tank is up.  He stresses that I should dry my face off completely before entering to ensure I'm not tempted to wipe my face as the Epson salts would cause me great discomfort if they got in my eyes.

The attendant left and I showered off, giving myself a good scrub down removing that fantastically wonderful underarm deodorant I'd applied so lovingly earlier in the day.  I towel off completely and installed the little orange foam earplugs snugly.  I turned the main florescent lights off and was left with the soft blue glow of an overhead neon lamp(I was told that I can choose between blue, orange, red, or even a strobe if I wanted depending on the experience I wanted. Though not sure why anyone would want a strobe light going as they exited the tank... strange.)

The tank itself is about eight feet long and has a large hatch on one end for you to enter.  Inside the tank is about two feet of liquid and a plastic blue bottom

I climbed in and reached for the hatch.  As I was closing the lid, my bare ass slipped on the bottom of the tank and I slid into the tank onto my back plunged in darkness.  The water(?) felt almost slimy as it sloshed around briefly while I tried to adjust to my new environment.

Laying on my back I tried to relax and found that I was incredibly buoyant with my face, stomach and legs completely out of the water.  I stretched my legs and arms out beside me in order to steady myself.  It was pitch black.

After bobbing for a moment the water became still and I found a comfortable position with my arms lazily drifting above my head with my palms facing up.  I tried to relax further, sort of focusing on all the parts of my body which still held tension.  My back, my legs, my shoulders, my neck, even my jaw which for some reason I had been clenching...

I wasn't sure if I should close my eyes or keep them open, but it didn't seem to matter as there was no light.  I thought to keep them open so I wouldn't fall asleep.  Small sparks of light danced around my vision as is normal when first exposed to any kind of darkness. I attribute this to my endless hours of staring at electronic devices.

For a long moment I just floated there, almost waiting, anticipating what might happen.  I thought to myself, "now what?"

As I floated there, I felt my body becoming more and more relaxed.  The air was roughly the same temperature as the water, which was warm at first and then sort of just disappeared.

After a while I could no longer feel the water or really the air, or anything for that matter.  The only physical sensation I had was the air entering and leaving my lungs.  It was a really strange sensation.  It felt like my legs were dropping down and for a moment I had this bizarre feeling of vertigo.  I lifted my hand up and splashed the water slightly and was instantly situated as to where I was as the water rippled from the impact points.

I waited for the water to calm down and felt again plunged into an abyss, no sound, no light, no physical perception, just a vast empty space.  The muscles in my legs and lower back twitched slightly as the last vestiges of tension eased away.  All sense of orientation then disappeared.  As I drifted there, the thoughts in my head were like a torrent of noise crashing through my brain. Thoughts from earlier in the day, things I had read, things I had done, things I had not done yet, things I should have done...

I tried focusing on the darkness and then picturing a white wall as I had practiced before in my previous forays into meditation.  As my mind calmed, and my body equally tranquil I felt my consciousness drifting and I think I may have fallen asleep.  It was a really strange sleep, like I was awake but not awake at the same time if that could happen.  I think I had thoughts, though I don't quite remember what they were.  I remember them being at least pleasant.

Before I knew it soft music began to play indicating my time was up.  I couldn't believe I had been in there an hour and a half..!  I slowly started to move my body again, which was an odd sensation as it had been completely relaxed.  Opening the hatch I blinked painfully at the assault of the blue light that had been so soft previously(I couldn't imaging what it would have been like with a strobe...).  As I slowly, lethargically climbed out of the tank, it was like being pulled from a warm womb and back into the the world.

After showering off, I felt so relaxed as I toweled dry and got dressed again.  That whole evening I felt light, as if I'd just had a long restful sleep that I was allowed to slowly wake from.  My mind felt clearer than it had in a while.  Like as if the things that I had been worrying about so intensely lately seemed so small and insignificant.  No meditation has ever left me feeling like this.

I think this first time it took me a while to get into it, and not knowing what to expect made it all that much more difficult to relax completely at the beginning.  It felt like I was finally relaxed and drifting and then my time was up.

I will definitely go again.  I think this will take some practice...  I'm excited to find out what things I can discover about myself.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Existential crisis

Contemplative states come when one pauses to reflect on the data derived from the physical senses. Contemplation is the key to understanding oneself in relation to the external universe. Information and stimuli build upon one another to pleasure our consciousness by forming connections in the brain.

One must always reserve a bit of time for contemplation.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Gym

You know people sometimes poo poo the gym and the folks who attend it regularly. I think its one of those places that is often overlooked for what it is. Strange things happen to people when they are working out. They suddenly become friendly, courteous, focused and with a strange inner peace.

I'm not talking about the drop ins, or the occasional gym go-er, I mean the person you see who goes three to four times a week, someone who has developed a sort of familiarity with the place.

They will always give their fellow gym goers a nod and a friendly smile, give them the right of way in passing, let others use the machines between their sets, share a sort of strange brotherhood or camaraderie in this environment of physical stress. This seems to trancend race, religion, sex, and political opinion. At the gym, you are just another human trying to fight back against the entropic forces which make our physical forms weak. The gym almost becomes a sanctuary, or a sacred place of peace.

In the outside world you see a large muscle bound dude walking down the street and you think to yourself, 'I could never be that devoted.' But more and more I can see that this devotion could also be born not out of a desire to become physically stronger, but it becomes a sort of meditation which helps focus the mind. Couple this mantra of physical movement with the release of endorphins and all of a sudden this is no longer a chore or a hobby, but a necessity. This can become an addiction like anything else, which leads people to heights of physical prowess they never thought possible for themselves.

With these regular gym goers in their states of physical meditation, I believe there is a strange sort of positive energy that is released. You ever wonder why you seem to get better workouts at the gym than at home(even if you have the room or the equipment)? This and the positive things happening to our bodies while exercising I believe improves moods and makes us more willing to be at harmony with those around us.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Evolution of the mind

Do you ever get that feeling that there is a weight sitting upon your consciousness which seems to inhibit you from gaining that next level of understanding.  No matter how much time you dedicate to your thoughts, to pondering the stimuli that you've experienced in your life, it all seems to sit in a state of stasis.  Going no further, making no new connections.  Almost as if you've reached the limit of your intelligence.

Then there are moments when you can't absorb enough data, like your mind is flexible, malleable, able to suck information like a sponge, retain it and understand it.  It is this state which I currently strive towards.  To attain that perfect mental condition where I can learn quickly and efficiently.  To feel the ecstasy of connections forming in my brain, to open up that single pathway which leads me to a torrent of new comprehension.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Things that are going on

You never know what someone may or may not be going through.  Someone says something off the cuff to me, something abrasive, something entirely irritating.  At first I'm thinking, "what a dick."  Then I assess the situation.  Could this person who is acting in this manner be going through a crisis of some sort?  If so, is it possible that they are just directing their negativity towards any willing recipient?  Is it possible that somewhere along the way of I've done or said something that reminded them of a situation in their past that they are not willing to repeat?  Perhaps they got up on the wrong side of the bed and are not enjoying the situation they find themselves in.  That is why I never flip someone the bird in traffic.  Who knows what their mental state could be.  I've heard, correct me if I'm wrong that there are some points in time whet everyone has a moment of clinical insanity...   ...I don't want to be the one to catch that one person who us having the worst day of their life and me be the straw that broke the camels proverbial back.